Saturday, August 8, 2009

Do My Cats Have Nicknames for Me?

Strangely, that was my first thought this morning when I woke up. What DO my cats call me? Do they think of me by name? Or does a mental picture of me appear in their little walnut-sized brains? Do they have nicknames for me, like I do for them? I kinda hate to think what they might call me in revenge for all the silly, and sometimes decidedly unflattering, names Mike and I have given them!

Even though Jack and Scout are now five years old I've only just barely stopped calling them The Kittens. Recently it's morphed into The "Smittens" and, individually, "Smack," and "Smout."



I've even made up little rhymes for them: "Jack, Jack, poop and stack," and "Scout, Scout, sulk and pout." Not exactly flattering! I wonder if they've got one for me?? Scary thought!

I've always thought that babies must "think" in pictures, not words, at least until they learn language. Are animals the same? It's pretty obvious animals know at least some words. "Walk" and "treat" are usually a dog's favorite words, and cats, mine anyway, definitely know the words that represent their names -- they will come when called. Scout also knows "kiss" and "High Five." Jack is partial to "outside." They will both "sit," especially if they know that a meal will follow the plunking of their butts onto the kitchen floor.

Maybe, in their minds, Jack and Scout think of Mike and I as "Mike" and "Deb" since that is what we call each other. But I doubt it. I'm not sure they would know we were referring to each other, but who knows. Cats are usually smarter than we give them credit for, that I do know. After all, look at how they manipulate us!

All Scout has to do is sit next to her food bowl and give me that "pleeeeeze" look she's so good at and I usually cave in and give her a little treat. Or Jack, when he jumps up on the cabinet just inside our front door and noses the basket where we keep his collar and leash. It's nearly impossible to ignore the unspoken demand to take him for a leisurely circuit of the backyard.

Still, I doubt that cats {or dogs, or any of the animals we keep as pets} make up words or rhymes like humans do; animals just don't use language in the same way. So do they instead use nickpictures? Maybe instead of a goofy name like "Scoutie-patoutie-patootie-pie" or "Jackely-Jackster-boy-o" when they're feeling affectionate, they imagine me as a lovely patch of sunshine, or Mike as their favorite furry toy. Is that how they are "seeing" us when they squeeze their eyes at us?

I'd really like to know the answer to this question -- so I can make sure their nicknames, or nickpictures, are at least complimentary.

But then I guess it doesn't really matter, as long as the tone is nice.

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